3 NPS Fretboard Visualization


Do you memorize just the 7 positions/shapes of 3NPS and relate it to the major scale or do you memorize all the keys and modes? What I mean is that, for example you’re in the key of G and your mode is Dorian, do you visualize it as G Dorian or you’ll relate it to its related major which is F Ionian/Major? Somehow it’s quite overwhelming because it feels like you’ll memorize 7 positions/shapes x 7 modes x 12 keys which is a total of 588 and also, you’ll need to memorize it horizontally too. I hope @kiko could enlighten me as well on this one.

Thanks a lot!

Note: I haven’t enrolled myself yet on the 7 Factor that’s why I don’t have any idea on the visualization methods being taught by Kiko. I’m still saving some money so I can enroll myself to it.

Hey, welcome!

In the key of G (major) if I were to go Dorian, that would be A Dorian. G Dorian -as you have said it correctly - would belong the the key of F major.

Also, don’t be intimidated by those numbers! If I were to make an advertisement, I’d say that you only have to learn one shape and the seven modes. :wink: Think of it like this: the 7 shapes you refer to are in fact parts of one shape. Whitin that one shape, you have the sounds of all the modes. Once you have this down, all you do is that you slide it around the neck to reach the remaining eleven keys. Much like that old way of checking test sheets by using a paper from which little pieces were cut out in a pattern that matched the pattern of the correct answers on the answersheet. By piecing together the seven shapes into one, you will create that paper cut out for all the right answers in your mind. Lay it over the fretboard and you have all the “right” notes highlighted. And when you have to change keys( score another pupil’s test in my analogy), you just slide that pattern-sheet around. If you can visualize that over the neck, you already have a huge part of the puzzle in place. For the modes, they are a subset of the original major scale/ionian, so you may want to discover patterns specific to a certain mode within that “master pattern”. Of course you will see that Kiko explains this much better and in more detail, but hopefully this will help you while you get the funds to enroll! :wink:

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Hi @nexion218, thanks a lot for your explanation! :slightly_smiling_face: I highly appreciate it!

By the way, just for clarification, I’ll think about the 7 positions/shapes as one? Thinking of it, I mean imagining it right now, isn’t the shape quite big? Haha! But yes, it makes sense that when you think of it as one and just slide it around then somehow it’s also easier. Also, does it mean you have a big scope in terms of visualization? I mean instead of zoning into just one position you’re seeing the whole thing? For example, I’m in the 5th fret of D string which is the G note, instead of seeing just the notes around that, I’m seeing the, let’s say the A note in the 14th fret G string? Thanks! :slightly_smiling_face:

Yeah, it is definitely bigger than just a single box, but also definitely not as overwhelming as 588… :wink:

If you’re vigilant enough, you may notice, that you have each shape within every other shape. Sounds stupid and confusing, but bear with me… A year or so ago I bought my first 7 strings guitar. by that time I was already familiar and mildly proficient with the 7 shapes on the 6 strings, so I figured I need to extend it to my new toy. Went at it with brute force: started on the low B and started counting the 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 pattern for B Ionian, then proceeded to C# Dorian and counted the 2-1-2-2-2-1-2 etc. Even made drawings of the “new” pattern boxes I had, saved them, wanted to print them out to use for practice and then came the “Fuckme, why didn’t I use my brains?” moment: After I had drawn out all seven “new” shapes I realized that they aren’t that new… The B Ionian on the seven string looked exactly like an F Lydian on six strings, I only had to add the 3 lowest notes on the B string. Went back to the 6 strings and took a goood hard look at the 7 shapes: if you take the Phrygian shape on a 6 string and omit the notes on the low E, the rest is the Aeolian shape with the top 3 notes “missing”. Go to Locrian, omit the low E, you get the Phrygian with top 3 notes missing, I hope you get my drift. So it really isn’t a lot, the catch here is to make the shapes and the transition bewtween the shapes second nature which can take time, even months.

Anyways, for starters, I would try connecting each shape to the two adjacent shapes. For example for the Ionian shape, connect it with the Locrian and Dorian shape and try playing freely within this bigger shape. You can do this with all 7 shapes and then you can easily piece them all together, since these bigger shapes will inevitably overlap. Eventuelly, you will (have to) see it in one piece to be able to move around freely on the neck. Or at least to be able to visualize the next or nearest shape.

To be honest, there are many ways to learn this, many ways to look at it and different methods will jibe differently with different people. But the end result should be the same, as they will all use the same 12 pitch classes, the same interval patterns for a given scale etc. For me, the way Kiko explains it makes a ton of sense, so his courses are a homerun for me. I hope you’ll feel the same after enrolling! :wink:

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Hi @nexion218, really thanks a lot for your response! Highly appreciate it! :slightly_smiling_face:

By the way just to share, I’ve noticed that too that in one shape, the other shapes exists too. Also, I can go from one shape to another shape just fine but the problem that I can see on my visualization for 3NPS is that when I’m in position/shape 1 I can go back and forth to position/shape 2 and/or position/shape 7 but I can’t jump to other positions let’s say position/shape 5. Another problem in my visualization is that I can do the position/shape if I started on the lowest possible note for that given shape but I can’t if I started on the middle or the higher part of it.

I’ll try your guide to view it in one big shape first and then when I’m comfortable I’ll try to move it around.

By the way, when you visualize it in one big shape do you see its intervals too or just the shape/patterns? Thanks again! :slightly_smiling_face:

I wish I did… That’s what I’m working on!

I can see the intervals in the fretboard using Tom Quayle’s system and also the CAGED system. My problem with it is I cannot play it fast enough as I need to think unlike if I’ll see the scale patterns.

Speed will come with time. Just keep playing. You1ll see during the courses that there is an often overlooked part of practice that @kiko keeps preaching to us: “Practice the speed of thought!”.

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Yes, I believed this is where the process of “out of the box” concept comes in and I believe @kiko said it too on one of his private live. :slightly_smiling_face: Thanks a lot @nexion218! :slightly_smiling_face:

My humble recommendation is to visualize the fretboard as 1 scale. I use the Cmaj/Amin scale as reference. I divide the 12 frets into 4 areas and practice them individually, and then practice them together as one.

To gain speed, confidence and accuracy, nothing beats practice - you have to do it A LOT to create muscle memory.

Get a backing track from Youtube and just improvise. Over time the positions will make sense and you’ll be able to freely move throughout the neck left and right.

After you’ve learned Cmaj/Amin, you only need to learn what that same scale looks like in other keys, and you’ll realize that all other keys and modes are exactly the same scale you already learned, only you have shifted it to the left or right, but the intervals are the same.

I started doing this almost 10 years ago : I’m still learning and discovering things, but there are countless visual shapes on the fretboard that you can use to orient yourself while you play.

I hope this makes sense. Happy to elaborate more if there’s interest.


Hi @alco thanks a lot for this! Currently, I’m approaching the fretboard as “1 big scale”, as you’ve mentioned and as advised by @nexion218 too. It’s great as I’m also learning the notes of the key that I’m in. I’m using those notes as a reference to what position I’m currently in.

I didn’t used this method before because I might hit notes that I don’t want over a given chord and it sounds too “scalar”, sounds like just going up and down the fretboard, to me. And maybe I don’t want to memorize stuffs. My primary visualization method is through intervals, I can see the shapes of the intervals on the fretboard, and it feels like I have more control of my note choices.

Recently, I wanted to explore the fretboard more in a way that I can “turn off” my mind when playing “fast”, around 100 bpm. I’m thinking that it’s easier to play fast in 3NPS shapes because you already have a template where the notes are in 2 octaves and you just need to have patterns/sequences for it. To resolve my problem of sounding too scalar in this format, I’ve incorporated @kiko lesson in Youtube on how to play a scale wherein you’ll stop at every chord tone.

Started this thread as I’m curious on how you guys approach this method as it doesn’t make sense to me before because I can’t visualize the whole 7 positions. Haha. Because of your answer guys, the whole 3NPS method makes sense to me now that’s why I can practice it effectively unlike before.

All in all, I’m looking at 3 NPS in a new light and have a new appreciation for it thanks to you guys! :slightly_smiling_face:

By the way, what’s your approach on not sounding “scalar” when you’re using this method?

I think you’re on track, @pgescosa.

I do sound “scalar”, I admit it and that’s something I’m working on.

I learned 3NPS from Frank Gambale on his Speed Picking VHS. Since the early 90’s I’ve been practicing his economy picking and organizing scales as 3NPS patterns.

Today I think that whether 3NPS, 2NPS or whatever combination, they’re just ways of organizing the scales so they make more sense, and I wish I didn’t know any of the 3NPS patterns.

So to answer your question, what I’m doing to sound less scalar is leverage the fact that when I look at the fretboard, I see all the possible “good” notes for the current key, plus, through trial and error, I can see where cool passing notes and arpeggios are, so in the words of the late Allan Holdsworth, who used a similar system, “simply start juggling things around”.

He explained his system in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wts2Mw6Nb5s

Also, I’m just a hacker, just like all of us. :slight_smile:

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Thanks @alco! I’ll take a look at it.

When you look at the fretboard do you also see the “lights” for the “good” notes? I’ve read that others see the fretboard lights up for the notes of the scale they’ve chosen.

As for me, it doesn’t as I can only see the notes around the note that I’m playing. At most, I can only see 1 octave.

Keep doing @kiko 's method of stopping on chord tones! With time, you will start to see shapes within the shapes: the triads will “light up” within the scale shapes. Those will always be “good” notes to land on and will make you sound melodic. Íme th ng that I am eager to have some fun with this week is the “apogiatura” (I hope I spelled it right): hit the notes half step above and below your target note and the resolve to the intentended target. Creates a quick instance of tension-release, neutralizing somemof the scale exercise feel of the lick. Also, if you bend into your target note, you’ll have a moment of Marty Friedman.:wink:


Yes! Big Marty fan here as he’s my guitar hero. Haha! Exotic bends that Marty use! I noticed he specifically likes to bend on the b5 going to 5 and M7 going to root. I believed before his visualization was more of arpeggio based and the way he outlines the solos. Right now, he’s incorporating lots of pentatonics too and key changes. He also plays more horizontal/linear to sound more vocal. One advised that he said on one of his video lesson/interview from Total Guitar is try to focus on one area of the fretboard, sort of 1 octave area. I’m not sure of this as it’s more of an observation to his playing style.

But one thing that fascinates me about him is when being asked on how he plays, he always says he doesn’t know theory at all or I guess he just knows the basic theory. And then when he improvised over a track it feels like it’s a well thought kind of solo that I wish I could play. Haha. I’m wondering if he’s completely relying on ears wherein when he sees, for example the 8th fret of B string which is G, he already knows how it’ll sound.

Hey there if you wanna shift in the way you think you have to seriously focus on intervals, and the characteristic note which brings the flavour of the mode!



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Hi @davita, that’s my current way of visualization. I visualize the fretboard in intervals and I can target the specific notes that highlight the specific sound of the mode. My current challenge is more of how fast I can visualize the whole 7 notes of a mode that’s why currently I’m learning how to visualize it via 3NPS method. :slightly_smiling_face:

Indeed, I see “spots” and i can jump from fret 3 to fret 8 with ease. I think it’s just a matter of doing it A LOT.

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Thanks a lot @alco for your insights! :slightly_smiling_face:

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Hope this helps…

I have found from my own experience that when I look down the fretboard as a whole i see my favorite patterns or “boxes” I see for instance my 1st position Major scale or the famous Am/C Pentatonic box.

A useful thing for me to do was to play only ONE position stating from the open strings and move it all the way up to the 12th fret (Octave) (Chromatically)

Then rinse and repeat from 12 to 24th (If you have it) or 21/22for you Fender/Gibson guys out there.
Bend them til ya break em :slight_smile:

I feel that at the end of the exercise my mind dictates what I want to see as far as the key I am playing and let the frets “fill in” the shapes left and right of the position I am in.

Goal is to break the habit of visualizing the fretboard as “static” so I don’t get use to seeing the “C scale shapes” across the entire fretboard.

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